Friday, February 24, 2012

Tis a Writer's Life for Me! - Book endings

You may think that ending a book would be the easiest thing in the world to do. After all, you've already got the entire plot worked out and written, you've got all the characters defined, most of the scenes completed. You've done all the research, agonized over every line, put your characters through more trials and tribulations than any one human could handle. And finally after months and months, you're on the last chapter, the final scene in what you hope will be a story that will touch lives, change hearts, and let's face it, sell tons of copies!

So what's the problem? Would you believe that most writers I talk to tell me that the last chapter is often their hardest to write?  Once again I find myself on the final chapter of my current manuscript, Forsaken Dreams, and once again I have to agree with them.  There's so much to do in these last scenes.

  • Tie up any loose ends or plot threads.  Not as easy as it sounds! Sometimes I don't even remember I have threads. Forget finding them and tying them up! 
  • The main character or characters must have their grand epiphany!  This is the moment where the hero or heroine pass the final test. They learn the lesson and finally grow, change, move forward and let go of the things which held them back through the entire story. Man, that's a lot of pressure! Both on them and on me! 
  • If the book is part of a series, you must give a hint of what's coming next. Leave some of those aforementioned threads frayed at the edges just a bit. 
  • If the book is at the end of a series, you've got an even bigger job of tying things up
  • In a romance, the hero and heroine must get together. Otherwise, you'll have some mighty disappointed readers!
  • The setting must be in a place of completion. The end of a journey. A place signifying the beginning of a new journey. A place that symbolizes peace, finality, family, and home. 
  • The villain must be defeated or at least subdued until another time.
  • All secondary stories need to be wrapped up unless they continue in the next book of the series.
  • You must convey a mood of joy and hope and completion. I.E. The hero wins the crown. The couple get married. Relationships are mended. Family is brought together. The future is brighter than it was at the beginning of the book. The mystery is solved. Justice is done. 

And all this in one or two chapters! Yikes!!

And then there's that final sentence, equally as important as the first sentence of a book.  It must be perfect! You want the reader to read that last word, lean back in his or her chair, and sigh deeply. You want the last sentence to feel like the final piece of a moist, double-chocolate cake with whipped cream icing.

I cannot tell you the hours I've spent agonizing over the final paragraph of my book.
Here's a few from my own books and from others I've read.  Do you have any favorite last paragraphs/lines?? I'd love for you to share them!

 “What does this mean, Father?” He scrunched his tiny nose. “Does this mean Miss Dawson can be my new mother now?” Chase gave his son another squeeze and kissed him on the nose.
“No, William. It means she already is.”   The Falcon and the Sparrow by M.L. Tyndall

Standing in the warm, protective arms of the man she loved, blessed and cared for above all her expectations by the God of the universe, she thanked the Lord, her new heavenly Father, for the redemption of her soul, the redemption of her life, and the redemption of her heart.  The Redemption by M.L. Tyndall 

The snap of a sail sounded above them.
The ship jerked forward as the purl of the water played over the bow. 
“Do you think God has more for us to do?” Marianne looked up at Noah.
He smiled. “I think God has only just begun.”  Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall

I glimpsed the handprints and instantly sobered. They were pushing me forward, ducking my head and forcing me outward, down the passageway, and I wanted to dig in, push back, refuse to go. They were forcing me away from the path.
The only path back
Back to Marcello.
The only path back. . . to love     WaterFall by Lisa T. Bergren

Wilhelm and Rose slipped out a side door. Hand in hand they hurried toward the stairs and the life that had been planned for them since before they were born.  The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

In the New River Valley beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, she still delivered most of the babies born. Rafe took care of every other medical need and the difficult births. Together, they formed a formidable couple, healing bodies as the Lord healed their hearts.  Heart's Safe Passage by Laurie Alice Eakes

"Am I read?" she whispered, squeezing Sean's hand till she thought she would burst. "Oh, yes," she breathed. For the first time in my life. . .       A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman


  1. Fri Feb 24th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Chapter endings ... I can only imagine, and 'try' to appreciate the agonizing hours you must go through, at the finality of each novel !!! No, it doesn't sound easy at all ... as you've already shared -- tying up loose ends, causing everything to make sense, sharing hope and peace and resolve, etc, etc, etc. Leaving your readers with that "feel-good" feeling.
    I enjoyed all of the endings you shared -- both from your own novels, and those of others.
    Just having finished the book "Maire", by Linda Windsor ... Chpt 27 ends: 'The words echoed again and again with each hungry beat of Maire's heart. It was a wonderful thing, this love. Without it, two hearts were incomplete. With it, they were truly one, not just with each other, but with God. If Maire never understood another thing about her new faith, she knew this to be true: God is love -- and all things are possible in the name of love.'
    Well, on the simple mind of this reader "me" .... all I can tell you MaryLu is: that when I draw to the close of your novels, even though yes, there is a "feel-good" feeling .... it also saddens me too ... only because I don't want the book/story to come to an end !!!
    I am quite sure, that in "Forsaken Dreams" ... your ending will be just as grand, as in 'all' of your previous books !!!
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. Oh, yes. You want the reader to sigh at the closing words.

    I love it when I can read a book or watch a movie all over again and rediscover how it ended.

    By the way, I love the endings of "Charles Towne Bells". I just realized that each one wraps up the story with just a bit of humor. I think that is part of the reason they are unforgetable.


  3. Oh, Brenda, I loved Linda Windsor's chapter ending! Very nice. Thank you for sharing it. :-) And thanks for your kind words.. I don't want to make you sad, but I know what you mean. I feel the same way about a good book or movie.

    Jennie, Thanks Jennie! I had forgotten I used humor in my Charleston series. Well, that was before the next sister got herself in trouble! Believe it or not, I had people get mad at me about that.. Sigh. They didn't want to wait to find out! I'm such a big meanie. ;-)

  4. Absolutely! And nothing is more frustrating than to get the the last chapter and feel like the author ran out of word count and just threw the ending together and resolved everything with a wave of the wand. Resolutions do have to make sense. I hate laboring through a book and then poof! It all magically disappears and is tied up with some ridiculous ending.

  5. I've read books that have done that too, Linda. It's horrible. It feels like the author just grew weary of the entire book. I normally don't read that author again.

  6. MaryLu, you picked my absolute favorite ending to use as your first example. When I finished The Falcon and the Sparrow, I leaned back, tears in my eyes, and let out a huge fulfilled sigh. It was first time I used the line 'The best movie I've never seen'. hugs

  7. Ah, yes, endings that make you sigh with a smile. Love, love, love. You do an incredible job with this :)